Sebastien Bourdais (Dallas Breeze photo)
DETROIT – There was rarely a dull moment for Sebastien Bourdais, Renger van der Zande and the No. 01 Cadillac Racing Team in the first half of the 2022 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The final dose of excitement came on Friday when Bourdais won the Motul Pole Award for the International Daytona Prototype class at the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic with a new course record for the 2.3-mile, 14-turn Belle Isle Raceway.
The fifth career pole position of the 43-year-old Frenchman’s IMSA career – and fourth this season – came despite a contact with the wall at Turn 2 at one point during 15-minute qualifying and a later spin.
It was just the final day of adventure for Bourdais, who has qualified on pole for four of the last five races in the WeatherTech Championship. But that qualifying dominance hasn’t carried over into race day, as van der Zande and Bourdais have clinched just one win – on the streets of Long Beach, California – and are sixth in the points standings.
Her challenge, therefore, is to get a clean day in Saturday’s race at a tight, unforgiving track that twice almost caught Bourdais in qualifying.
He broke Juan Pablo Montoya’s three-year-old Belle Isle sports car course record with a lap of 1 minute 19.017 seconds with about six minutes remaining on Friday, then suffered a hard right-hand impact with the wall at turn two as he launched another flying one Round.
After doing a few laps to ensure the Cadillac V-Performance Academy DPi-VR wasn’t seriously damaged, Bourdais uncorked a 1:18.818 (107.335 mph) that Tom Blomqvist put in the No. 60 Meyer Shank on his final attempt Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura DPi by 0.110 seconds.
“It was quite a chaotic qualifying session and I don’t think I’ve ridden that many walls in a row in a long time,” said Bourdais. “You have to rush the cars and push so hard here that you really expose yourself. It proves that we really need to dig deep to keep these Acuras in check.
“It’s really cute. It takes a lot of dedication out here, so it’s really rewarding,” he added. “A couple of really big laps, a really big hit and I’m super happy that Cadillac is that strong because I think my session would have been half done in any other car.”
Championship leaders Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque qualified third fastest in the #10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05, followed by the #02 Cadillac Racing Cadillac shared by Alex Lynn and Earl Bamber.
Bourdais and van der Zande understand that multiple race wins are the only way for them to get back into the championship fight. They still sit 203 behind Taylor and Albuquerque after qualifying on Friday reduced their gap by five points.
“We’re hoping for a great day,” said Bourdais. “The number 01 car won here last year (with van der Zande and Kevin Magnussen) so expectations are high. As everyone knows, it’s the home ground of Cadillac and GM, so we’re expected to win here. I hope we’re the ones to do that.
“We know things have to come our way and we need our opponents to encounter some problems,” he continued. “We need to boost our season and get some points and I hope to start tomorrow. We just have to put our heads down, minimize mistakes and hope that we have some luck that will help us come back in this fight.”